How Ali Modami grew to become the go-to batting follow pitcher
Ali Modami was in a batting cage final week, as he’s virtually on daily basis eight months out of the 12 months, when he was approached with a query he will get typically from somebody he by no means imagined would ask.
“Hey, do you want to throw?” Ken Griffey Jr. requested.
Of course, Modami mentioned, making an attempt exhausting to cover his pleasure as he performed catch with Griffey, Team USA’s hitting coach and a Hall of Famer that Modami, together with thousands and thousands of different children, idolized within the Nineteen Nineties.
“My 12-year-old self would’ve s— myself,” Modami mentioned jokingly. “And then him and Mike were in there talking. I would’ve paid millions of dollars to hear that conversation. Two of the greatest players to ever play. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Mike, after all, is Mike Trout. The famous person heart fielder and left-hander Aaron Loup are the 2 Angels on Team USA’s roster for the World Baseball Classic. But they aren’t the one folks representing the group on the American squad.
Modami additionally left the Angels final week to affix Team USA as a batting follow pitcher, which, by definition, makes him top-of-the-line at what he does on this nation, too.
“Guys love the way he throws it in there,” Team USA and Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel mentioned. “And he’s left-handed. That’s rare.”
Modami, 42, is a former ballplayer himself. Born in New York City, he moved to Scottsdale in highschool and performed baseball at Oklahoma State. He batted .267 with a house run in 86 at-bats his senior 12 months. A brief indy ball profession adopted. His enjoying days resulted in 2005.
“I played hard,” Modami mentioned. “Loved the game. Short on talent. I was good, but I couldn’t forget an 0 for 4. My 0 for 4 would be an 0 for 12.”
To keep within the sport, he began repeatedly going to a coaching facility within the Phoenix space, the place he ended up throwing batting follow to main leaguers. One was Pat Burrell, a slugger with the Philadelphia Phillies on the time. Eventually, Modami discovered the Phillies wanted a batting follow pitcher. He flew on the market for a tryout and was given the job.
He spent 5 years with the Phillies earlier than Jayson Werth, who left Philadelphia for the Washington Nationals, introduced him to Washington. Modami threw 1000’s of pitches for the Nationals for 9 years. In 2021, with a push from Anthony Rendon — who had left Washington the earlier 12 months — Modami joined the Angels.
“I don’t like hitting left-handed BP throwers,” mentioned Team USA shortstop Trea Turner, who spent elements of 5 seasons hitting pitches off Modami in Washington. “Him and [former Nationals hitting coach] Kevin Long are the only two left-handers that I’ve ever really liked hitting off of.
“It’s just a perfect four-seam and he wants to be great out there. He wants to prepare you and he puts in the effort. So, it’s nice when you have somebody that cares. And he’s a good dude. Everyone loves him.”
Modami mentioned all that point spent with gamers results in belief. He’s not their hitting coach, however he sees 1000’s of swings. He can inform if one thing is incorrect so he’s incessantly requested for enter. It turns into a part of the job. One day, he mentioned, he would really like extra accountability — perhaps as an assistant hitting coach.
Team USA supervisor Mark DeRosa first met Modami as a participant in 2012, his solely season with the Nationals — the fifteenth of his 16-year profession. Injuries restricted DeRosa to 48 video games and loads of rehabilitation time within the cage with Modami. A friendship was solid. They stayed in touch over the subsequent decade.
Last 12 months, DeRosa, an MLB Network analyst in his first-ever stint as a supervisor, pushed for Modami to be invited to affix Team USA. In November, Modami obtained the decision from Team USA normal supervisor Tony Reagins.
“He was unbelievable,” DeRosa mentioned.
The recreation has advanced throughout Modami’s time within the majors. Players’ gameplans are extra tailor-made than earlier than, and so they step into the field with particular requests. Pitchers are throwing tougher than ever so hitters need extra velocity in batting follow to arrange. That means Modami transferring nearer to simulate the pace or gamers choosing a throwing machine.
“But some guys don’t like the machine because of the timing factor,” Modami mentioned. “They like to see the arm stroke. So it’s just a little bit of both. Some days you throw a couple hundred pitches. Some days 300. It just depends.”
All these pitches — 1000’s and 1000’s over 15 years — have taken a toll. Modami mentioned he didn’t want any arm care till 2017. His arm by no means damage. Then it did. So trainers gave him a program he nonetheless makes use of. He lifts mild weights or bands someday and ices his arm the subsequent all through the season. It’s erased the ache.
“It’s funny,” Modami mentioned. “I played first base. We don’t throw at all, and my arm hurt every day. Now it never hurts.”
Modami has thrown to a few of the largest stars within the sport. Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani have placed on batting follow exhibits along with his pitches. Others used the pregame classes to hit the ball to explicit areas. Ryan Howard appreciated hitting groundballs to shortstop. Daniel Murphy at all times tried to tear one line drive up the center.
His consistency and sturdiness led to a chance he by no means imagined attainable, throwing batting follow for the best group of American place gamers ever assembled for a global occasion and a sure famous person he grew up revering. He’s been a member of two World Series groups in his profession — one every in Philadelphia and Washington. Another championship is inside attain this month.
“To wear this uniform,” Modami mentioned, “is a dream come true.”